Women of the Underground: Music: By Zora von Burden, 263 pgs.

Nov 24, 2010

Women of the Underground is an ambitious collection of interviews with whom the publisher refers to as “radical women musicians,” which isn’t too off the mark. Of the twenty interviews collected, only four were duds. The author did an excellent job of finding interview subjects whose voices and opinions may have been overlooked in favor of their better-known male bandmates or maybe hadn’t been interviewed too extensively.

Of the former, I found the interviews with Patricia Morrison (Gun Club, Sisters Of Mercy, The Bags), Teresa Taylor (Teresa Nervosa from the Butthole Surfers), Danielle Stampe (Slymenstra Hymen of Gwar) and Sean Yseult (Famous Monsters, White Zombie) to be the most informative.

Of the latter, von Burden’s interviews with Rockabilly Queen Wanda Jackson, Ana da Silva (the Raincoats) and Maureen Tucker (Velvet Underground) were standouts as well.

There are places where the line of questioning gets a bit repetitive—in more than one interview I noticed the subject would go on at length about a topic only to have von Burden later ask about it in question form. While von Burden might not be the strongest interviewer, she does have the ability to squeeze some meaningful answers from her subjects.

As mentioned earlier, only a few interviews fell flat. The Miss Mercy (the GTO’s) interview didn’t seem to fit the parameters of the book itself and in both Cosey Fanni Tutti (Throbbing Gristle) and Jarboe (Swans) interviews, the subjects come across as a bit pompous and just plain difficult.

All in all, Women of the Underground is a great read. Hopefully von Burden has some more interviews stashed up her sleeve as there are certainly more stories to tell and she seems perfectly suited to help tell them. –Garrett Barnwell (Manic D Press, PO Box 410804, SF, CA94141)

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